Nicholas Sparks was born on December 31, 1965, in Omaha, Nebraska. He grew up in Minnesota and California, and won an athletic scholarship to the University of Notre Dame. He started writing fiction while in college but his early attempt at a novel, “The Royal Murders,” was never published. After graduating in 1988 he worked in various jobs, as a waiter and real-estate appraiser, and then he made a living by buying and restoring old homes. He started his own business and sold it; then he worked as a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company. He continued to write, and in 1990 he collaborated with former Olympic athlete Billy Mills on a coming-of-age novel, Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding (1990).
In 1993 Sparks and his wife Cathy, whom he had married in 1989, moved to New Bern, North Carolina. A year later Sparks began to work on what would become The Notebook (1996), which he sold to Warner Books for a million dollars. This romantic novel quickly became a best-seller, staying for over two years on the best-seller lists for both paperbacks and hardbacks. It was nominated for Book of the Year by the American Booksellers Association in 1997 and made into a film in 2004, starring James Garner and Gena Rowlands.
Sparks followed this success with another novel, also with a romantic theme, Message in a Bottle (1998). Another best-seller, it was made into a 1999 film starring Kevin Costner, Robin Wright Penn, and Paul Newman.
Although reviewers had mixed opinions about the merit of his novels Sparks was now firmly established as a writer of easy to read romantic novels that appeal to a wide readership. A Walk to Remember was published in 1999, and was made into a film in 2002, starring Mandy Moore and Shane West. The story was inspired by Sparks’s younger sister, who like Jamie in the novel, died of cancer.
Since then Sparks has produced a steady stream of novels, including The Rescue (2000), A Bend in the Road (2001), Nights in Rodanthe (2002), The Guardian (2003), The Wedding, (2003), True Believer (2005), At First Sight (2005), Dear John (2006), The Choice (2007), and The Lucky One (2008). Like many of his previous books, The Lucky One went straight to the top of the best-seller lists.
As of 2008, Sparks and his wife live in Beaufort, North Carolina, the small town in which A Walk to Remember is set. They have five children, and their third son is named Landon (like the character in the novel).